Feeling Better

In addition to immunosuppression through the use of drug therapy, patients should adhere to the following categories of disease management principles in order to lessen the negative impacts of lupus — triggers, risk factors and lifestyle.

Specific disease triggers should be avoided:

  • Direct sun exposure
  • Birth control pills with high levels of estrogen
  • Antibiotics classified as sulfonamides (“sulfa drugs”)
  • Echinacea
  • Alfalfa sprouts

Risk factors for artherosclerosis and osteoporosis should be reduced or eliminated:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol and high lipid (fat) levels in the blood
  • Smoking
  • Lack of calcium and vitamin D intake
  • High corticosteroid dosage

Patients must make lifestyle choices to monitor, reduce or ultimately eliminate other risk factors:

  • It is important to get adequate rest and conserve energy; thus, patients should identify and treat conditions that could contribute to fatigue, such as over-exercise, depression, hypothyroidism and fibromyalgia
  • Infections should be minimized; while common with lupus, they can be mitigated. Patients should seek medical attention not just for identifiable infections, but also for unexplained fevers
  • The risk of blood clots should be minimized; thus, balancing rest with an active lifestyle is important, and patients are encouraged to maintain a reasonable level of activity as part of their daily living.
  • Stress reduction is key, not only to managing relapses and certain symptoms related to the disease, but also in supporting a patient’s commitment and resolve to ongoing disease management – it can be a ‘long haul’, and it is important patients approach the challenge of a life with lupus positively.

Some lifestyle-related risk factors may seem to be part of ‘business as usual’ of being human, but can exacerbate lupus and trigger relapses and flare-ups.